Thoughts on Our Founding Fathers

In light of the debate that continues about the status of health care in the United States, I’ve been considering some of the thoughts of our Founding Fathers. They founded this nation on freedom, self-reliance, and accountability. Those are character traits that were important to them. Now we are considering how everyone can have adequate health care at the cost of the whole citizenry.

In my reading this week I came across an article that was printed around 1950. I found it astonishing in light of our current debates. I thought you might enjoy the feelings of our patriots in the 1950’s.

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Abraham Lincoln Loved Books

Lincoln was an avid reader. He always kept a book nearby. He read the newspapers voraciously. He loved books. His favorite books included the Bible and books about his beloved George Washington, especially the biography by Reverend Mason Locke “Parson” Weems.

It was through reading books that Lincoln learned how to speak, but he understood that speaking was useless unless people would actually listen to you. That’s why most of his speeches were filled with anecdotes and stories.

Have you ever considered that Abraham Lincoln became President of the United States because of his ability to find the truth by public discussion. Abe Lincoln was not a governor of any state as were Wilson and Roosevelt. He had only served one uneventful term in Congress. But he achieved his prominence through his debates with Stephen A. Douglas.

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Abe Lincoln and Donald Trump

There’s been a overwhelming amount of vitriol in the voice of the people and the media these days. Who would have thought it could ever be this bad about a man who just wants to make America great. Even if Donald Trump just makes it better, wouldn’t that be great?

Abraham Lincoln had a similar problem in his presidency. The Civil War was fought on the battlefields and in the press. At that time the newspapers were also full of descriptions of the feats of a well-known tight rope walker named Blondin.

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The Revolutionary War

Why did the Colonists win the Revolutionary War? America was not at the center of the world at the time. England was. Great Britain was slow to understand the nature of the threat of war with America and its colonies.

Americans were a bunch of rag-tag but hearty fighters dedicated to an idea. The idea was quite real. It was an idea of personal liberty, freedom and self-government.

The soldiers fighting for England were fighting for their empire or they were being paid to fight for it. When you are fighting for something more personal you are more devoted to the purpose of the fight. It is more personal. It means more to the fighters.

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Morality, Freedom, and Liberty

The Founding Fathers of our nation established a republic, a democracy that turned the power to the people. It was a new nation that said that the citizens, the people, would come first and would therefore choose their own leaders for the new nation.

In and around this rich new culture, there was faith and morality. The Founders hoped that culture would continue to allow America to become a light on the hill for the whole world.

The combination of the Spirit of the Revolution, Declaration of Independence, the new U.S. Constitution, The Bill of Rights, and the foundation in law was new in the world. As Benjamin Franklin said: “It’s a Republic—if you can keep it. The most fervent desire of the Founding Fathers was that we, as a people, would watch over this nation, with these founding documents, culture, and faith, and keep it strong forever.

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The Father of Our Country

George Washington became known as “The Father of Our Country”. Such a fine title for someone who had no children of his own. The country was his child. He was the Indispensible Man.

Washington also relied on the help from Providence, the name he used for God, out of reverence for the Almighty. He relied on his own faith and that of his soldiers. He said: “No man has more perfect Reliance on the alwise and powerful dispensations of the Supreme Being than I have nor thinks his aid more necessary.”

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The Father of the Constitution

Fathers Day having just passed, I have been thinking a little bit about the man we call “The Father of the Constitution”. The anniversary of his death is coming soon. He died on June 28, 1836, at the age of 85. He lived the last several years at his home, Montpelier, Virginia. His home wasn’t too far from Monticello, the home of his beloved friend, Thomas Jefferson.

Madison was the tireless scholar who fought for and caused the Constitutional Convention to occur. He knew the Articles of Confederation (the preliminary agreement between the colonies to bring unity) wasn’t working. He invited and got 55 of the most revered men from each of the 13 colonies to attend—eventually. And he proposed the plan that became the basis for our Constitution.

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George Washington’s Faith

In his youth, George Washington developed faith. He was very private about his faith. During the Revolutionary War his soldiers Knew he often went into the trees to be alone in prayer, or sometimes he knelt in his officers quarters. But George was private about his beliefs, usually referring to “the hand of Providence” when he knew he had been protected by God.

Faith to him was a private thing. Faith required no proof.

Or as Emily Dickinson put it:

“I never saw a moor,
I never saw the sea,
Yet know I how the heather looks,
And what a wave must be.

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A Prayer for a Nation

Benjamin Franklin was a religious man, but he didn’t much care for organized religion. At least not as it was presented to him. But he did believe in God. And he had some things to say about our Constitution.

“I beg that I may not be understood to infer,” he said, “that our General Convention (Constitutional Convention) was divinely inspired, when it form’d the new Constitution . . . .yet I must own that I have so much faith in the general Government of the world by Providence (his, and George Washington’s, way of naming God) that I can hardly conceive a Transaction of such momentous Importance to the Welfare of Millions now existing, and to exist in the posterity of a great Nation, should be suffered to pass without being in some degree inflluenc’d, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent, and beneficent Ruler, in whom all inferior Spirits live, move and have their Being.”
(“A Comparison of the Conduct of Ancient Jews and Anti-federalists in the United States of America” (1788), as quoted in “First Freedom” by Randall Palmer, et al, 2012, page 37.

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It’s been a wonderful Fathers Day today. I had a great and delicious dinner at my daughter and son-in-law’s home. (I didn’t have to cook or do dishes! And the food was scrumptious.

On top of that I received some treasured gifts from my wife and from my daughters. I won’t tell you which are from which one lest the others feel slighted. But I got a See’s candy gift card, and four different good books. “First Freedom, a Fight for Religious Liberty” by Randall Balmer, Lee Groberg, and Mark Mabry (full of beautiful pictures in addition to the words). “America in the Last Days, The Constitution and the Signs of the Times” by Morris Harmor. “John Quincy Adams” by Harlow Giles Unger. And “Dreamers and Deceivers, True Stories of the Heroes and Villains Who Mad America”, by Best Selling Author, Glenn Beck.

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